The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

June 6, 2010

MICHELE M. BENDER | Mercy lives on

Michele M. Bender
For The Tribune-Democrat

— Doctors at Mercy Hospital removed my tonsils in 1957, when I was 8.

My first ever hospital stay fascinated me. I absorbed every sight, sound, smell and touch like a sponge. Tastes, not so much. It was, after all, a tonsillectomy!

Nurses wore crisp white uniforms and caps. Everything, it seemed, smelled like alcohol or disinfectant. My bed had a crank. They used ether to sedate me for the operation.

The mid-’70s found me at Mercy again. My surgeon, the late Dr. Lovette, took excellent care of me.

But things were evolving.

Beds were electric. Smells weren’t as intense. More good news: Ether was gone.

A month ago, my white blood cells dropped to a dangerously low level.

“It’s time to send you to the ‘Big House,’ ” explained my doctor.

I sort of saw it coming. I was weak, tired, had no appetite and was dizzier than usual. Plus, there were freaky, weird dreams.

One night I dreamed my laundry jumped out of the hamper, singing and dancing. My socks had little stick arms and legs and did kicks like the Rockettes.

Talk about coming full circle, I was admitted to the fourth floor of Good Samaritan which, of course, is the former Mercy.

If a hospital can be “home,” I was there.

Compassionate caregivers wearing colorful scrubs took excellent care of me.

These ladies and gentlemen, who clearly worked as a team for a long time, complemented each other’s strengths.

I tried their patience. Any more “whine” and we’d have needed a Wisconsin cheese catalog.

Progress marches on.

Technology and advancements dazzled me.

The electric beds now gently vibrate to prevent bed sores. Sandra, with housekeeping, kept my room spotless without any scary odors.

No more food trays with broth, Jell-O and a slice of Wonder bread in a baggie; a menu showcasing gourmet-quality food awakened my dormant appetite.

Hospital personnel performed an assortment of tests and finally tracked my blood ailment back to a viral infection.

Six days later, I “graduated.”

God bless these precious folks who gave me their best, RNs and staff: Rose, Brian, Jen, Kimmie, Kristy, Monique, Brenda, Stacy, Melanie, Dee, Mary, Amy, Julie, Sharon, Bert, Michele, Sherri, Nanette, and another Kristy.

I apologize to anyone I might have missed. Your help was indeed a blessing.

“Mercifully,” my entire hospital experience was positive. I know how lucky I am.

The changes I have witnessed in 50 years are amazing.

I have only one question.

They can valet park you, scan you, MRI you, gourmet feed you … can’t they do something about those gowns?  

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and a member of  The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee.